Anthony Rizzo Clearly Violated the Posey Rule

It’s now been six years since Buster Posey lost most of the season due to a broken leg bone suffered in a home plate collision. Two years later, Major League Baseball adopted Rule 7.13 to deal with collisions at home plate, meaning we are now in the fourth year of the rule designed to prevent serious injuries like the one Posey suffered as well as limit the damaging effects of concussions. There are two parts to the rule, one for catchers and one for runners, and together, collisions at the plate have become pretty non-existent. That’s what makes Monday night’s collision–when Anthony Rizzo barreled down the line into Austin Hedges–notable. It’s now a rarity, but Rizzo’s play was in clear violation of the rule.

As Joe Maddon correctly noted after the game, the rule does not eliminate collisions entirely. But Maddon also incorrectly stated that it was a “good play”. The play was a violation of the rule, and the video evidence is indsiputable. Before we get to the play, let’s take a look at what the rule does and does not allow. Here’s the first, most relevant part of the rule:

(i) (7.13) Collisions at Home Plate

(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision.

Now here’s the very last part of the play from the third base side of the field above the action:

Rizzo’s first two steps in that sequence his feet are on the foul side of the line. If you roll back further, you would see that every step leading up to this point also occurred in foul territory. Rizzo’s final two steps are a clear deviation from his direct pathway to the plate. Rizzo was trying to make it home safely. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. He had two options: 1) attempt to avoid a tag on his way to the plate or 2) attempt to dislodge the ball from Hedges by crashing into him. Rizzo chose the latter and made that attempt by changing his path immediately after the ball reaches his line of sight.

The last part of the rule above mentions an avoidable collision. We don’t need to get to that question because of the clear violation in the first part, but its again hard to argue that this collision wasn’t avoidable. Is there any wiggle room elsewhere in the rules that might lean towards Rizzo’s favor? The rest of the rule from above deals with the consequences for a violation and a statement that an appropriate slide doesn’t violate the rule, which didn’t matter here because Rizzo didn’t slide, Hedges held on to the ball and it was the final out of the inning so no baserunners were going to advance.

There are also comments to the rule to help with enforcement. Here’s one part:

The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i) (Rule 7.13), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided.

These are guides to help umpires out because sometimes the deviation might not be as clear as Rizzo’s. Let’s look at the end of the play:

In this case, Rizzo made no effort to touch the plate until after he plowed into Hedges. The rule doesn’t mention going in knee first, but Rizzo does pretty obviously push through Hedges with his hands arms. The rule comment also says:

A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.

In his piece over at CBSSports (which also includes some good perspectives on how MLB should respond), going over much of the same ground, Dayn Perry details the “buttocks and legs” of Rizzo in a compelling screenshot, reaching a similar conclusion to the one here. The rule comment does provide a potential out for Rizzo:

If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(1) (Rule 7.13(1)).

There’s a big problem with attempting to use this argument on behalf of Rizzo. Austin Hedges does not move his left foot as he’s waiting for the ball, his leg is clearly out in front of home plate, and the placement of his body his essentially unmoved from well before the ball arrived. This is a problem for Rizzo’s defense because in order to argue that Rizzo’s collision was “good”, you would need to believe that what Austin Hedges did violated the second part of the collision rule, in part here:

Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

If Hedges had the ball and he was blocking Rizzo’s path, then Rizzo is free to collide with Hedges. Because Hedges barely moved when he received the ball, and he didn’t have the ball until Rizzo was just a few feet away, that means that Hedges’ position while Rizzo was going down the line needed to have been blocking Rizzo’s path the entire time. Given Hedges’ positioning, this would be a ridiculous conclusion.

The rule for catchers also has a provision allowing the catcher to get in the way on a “legitimate attempt to field the throw”, and just to clarify and reinforce the collision rule, the rule goes on to say,

In addition, a catcher without possession of the ball shall not be adjudged to violate this Rule 6.01(i)(2) (Rule 7.13(2)) if the runner could have avoided the collision with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) by sliding.

Even if Hedges was a little bit in the way (he wasn’t), he still wouldn’t have violated the rule if Rizzo could have avoided the collision (he could’ve). While a catcher is not supposed to block the plate, the onus is still on the runner to try and avoid the collision. Rizzo made no attempt to avoid the collision. He actively sought one out. Joe Maddon is simply sticking up for his players, and that’s his job, but this is where he gets the rule wrong, saying:

“The catcher is in the way. You don’t try to avoid him in an effort to score and hurt yourself. You hit him, just like Riz did.”

While the catcher was not in the way. Even if he was, it is still the runner’s job to try and avoid a collision by sliding. Let’s look at the rule comment once again, and take notice of “or” when discussing the types of actions that support a violation:

The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated…

Collisions are sometimes unavoidable, but a player is supposed to make every effort to slide and ramming through the catcher in almost any instance violates the rule. That might not be what some consider to be a good part of baseball, but that’s the rule as written.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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5 years ago

There’s an angle of Rizzo from behind where you can very, very clearly see him juke toward the catcher.

Jasper Franciscomember
5 years ago
Reply to  abailey

Even in the first gif above, you can see him go from foul territory to a foot inside fair territory.